08.04.2022 Sandra Hofmeister

David Chipperfield’s Restoration of the Procuratie Vecchie in Venice

© Richard Davis

The Piazza San Marco is one of the world’s best-known squares. It is the one place in the City of Bridges that may bear the name “piazza”. Furthermore, it lies at the lowest point of the city, which is why the floods of the Acqua Alta last so long there. The Procuratie flank the open area on three sides; the historical buildings frame the Piazza San Marco and accentuate the façade of the church.

© David Chipperfield Architects Milan

Building Authorities for the Serenissima Repubblica

The fact that the Procuratie buildings come from different eras ranging from the Renaissance to the early 19th century, when the west wing of the Procuratie Nuovissime was built under Napoleon, is discernible only at a second look. In former times, the term “procuratie” was the name for the building authorities of the Serenissima Repubblica. Later, further administrative functions were added; by the 16th century, the Procuratie processed most of the city’s governmental and administrative tasks. The buildings on the Piazza San Marco served as offices for the maritime republic.

© Alessandra Chemollo
© Alessandra Chemollo

Offices on the Piazza San Marco

The Generali insurance company has long had its premises in the Procuratie Vecchie, which were erected under the Doge Andrea Gritti in the first half of the 16th century. Over the years, the company has acquired most of the building and aimed to strengthen its connections to the city. With the foundation known as The Human Safety Net, Generali have made the third upper level, and therefore the greater part of the Procuratie Vecchie, accessible to the public.

© Alessandra Chemollo

Exposing history

“Repairing, reunifying and adapting the many layers of this historic structure has been a highly complex and rewarding challenge that reconnects us to the power of architecture both as physical substance and as a process of collaboration.” This is how architect David Chipperfield describes his team’s restoration of the Procuratie Vecchie. The first and second upper levels, which accommodate offices, have been restored, while the distribution area and the access to the spaces have been reorganized. In addition, the architects have renovated the third upper level to allow access to the public exhibitions paces, the working areas and the event rooms of The Human Safety Net foundation.

© Alessandra Chemollo
© Alberto Parise

Marmorino and terrazzo

Old Venetian artisanal techniques were taken up and painstakingly implemented in the renovation of the walls, floors and ceilings. This work includes Venetian terrazzo as continuous, monolithic flooring with many small, individual fragments of marble and other types of stone, as well as the marmorino and sciabatura techniques, which date to Roman times.

© Alberto Parise

The Procuratie Vecchie are located beside the Torre del’ Orologio (Clock Tower); construction began on its arcades and loggias in 1517 according to designs by Bartolomeo Bon and was completed in 1538 by Jacobo Sansovino. After the three-year renovation project by David Chipperfield Architects Milan, the building has now been reopened.

For more of David Chipperfield Architect's projects and full construction details of the buildings, see the extended reprint of the David Chipperfield monograph at Edition Detail.

Architecture: David Chipperfield Architects, Milano
Client: Generali Real Estate S.p.A., Milano
Location: Piazza San Marco 107, Venice (IT)

Competition: September 2016–July 2017
Planning: July 2017–July 2019
Completion date: May 2019–February 2022
Overall area: 11 890 m²

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